Middle of June and thinking about possible turns for the month and July. I had skipped a few occasions on heading to the Presidential due to certain obligations.
Being an abnormal snow year in the East, skiing was getting from pathetic to impossible real fast. From the reports I’ve seen from Tuckerman, mid-June turns looked more like July.
I wasn’t sure that Tuckerman July turns would be possible. I had a few ideas in mind for July snow, but they were more pathetic than the next. Would it really be skiing? As I started thinking outside the box I received an email from Mr. Bestsnow.net mentioning that PNW had another incredible year and looked like Mt. Bachelor might reopen for the June/July 1 weekend. He informed that it was good enough for him to consider flying there. I knew the season had been good and was aware that Crystal was still spinning on weekends as long as it was possible. Then there was Timberline on Mt. Hood and the mountains in the Cascade that would still have snow.
I had mentioned before that a trip only to freeski on timberline wasn’t necessarily worth the expenses, especially that I have skied there a couple of days once back in August / September 2006 as part of our excellent two weeks family vacation exploring the PNW. As I started thinking of the possibility and the fact that my season really sucked, I thought to myself, if I can get an airline ticket, I would go.
Getting out of the heat and riding the train to the Ottawa airport with skis; sense of déjà vu from last summer in Europe. Standing next to me at the Air Canada counter is an ex-CEO from a place I worked, he seemed to look at me as if he recognized me, wondering WTF was I going with my skis in June and why I’m not at work? I’m leaving on a trip away from work, what he is going here? As I’m charged 56$ for my regular bag plus my ski bag. I remember not long ago when you would even have to pay and they gave you more than pretzels to eat on the plane. Not on this 5-hour flight to Vancouver.
Another familiar face with ski boots is a local ski coach from another hill which my daughter trained with them one day in 2011. Ryan was now coach with the regional ski team and was heading on an earlier flight than the rest of the team to Mt. Hood. The team, amongst the best local racers, which Morgane competes against, were heading to Mt. Hood for 2 weeks of training. In September the team is going to train in Chile. Pretty much year-round training on and off snow. We had time to chat between flight to Vancouver and Portland, Oregon.
As in 2006, a spectacular view on the Dash 8 flight from Vancouver to Portland which included Seattle, Mts Rainier and St. Helens. As headed down to Portland, we could see Mt. Hood in the distance in the clear blue sky.
Back when I was with the family in 2006, I didn’t get to spend much time in Portland. Once I checked at the downtown Motel 6, which happens to be across the street from the hotel we stayed in 2006, I hope on the light rail system at around 9pm, which is free in the downtown core. Walked around for a few hours, went to biggest new and used Powell Book store I’ve never been to. Back to my room at past midnight which happens to be 3am in the East. It’s going to be a short night, especially that the lifts at Timberline open at 7am. Lift closed at 2pm, but I needed to be back in town at 3pm, so I would have to stop skiing before that.
I think the wake-up call was at 5:45am. It took me a while to get out of bed, of the room and on-the-road. No time for breakfast on the road as I’m racing towards the mountain. In the parking lot, I saw some people when skinning and hiking. I was debating what I was going to wear for way too long. It doesn’t matter, the scenery is beautiful. A quick special breakfast bagel at the Wy’ay Lodge cafeteria. Got my $58 liftticket as it was they were making my breakfast. Eat it as I was hiking through the lot in front of the Timberline Lodge and slowly sliding towards to massive line for the Magic Mile chair.
As I was walking in the lot, buses of kids were still arriving. However these kids were jibbers, not racers. Snow coverage was wall to wall at the bottom slopes above the hotel. As I got on the lift at 9:30 am, I was somewhat surprised as the lower mountain below the Palmer midstation was a series of moraine walled snow tongues the last time I skied here in late Summer 2006. The sun was hot and snow was soft. The lineup at Palmer was slightly better.
Mt. Hood is definitely summer skiing central. There was a queue also at the midstation, full of race kids and a few bigger racers like Ted Ligety. Each team was assigned a line on the hill, similar as the busy summer ski camp I saw in the Alps last summer. Some teams trained on upper Palmer, left or right of the lift. Some were also on the lower half of Palmer or along the Magic Mile.
I mixed it up, either by making full runs of Palmer or riding the upper part of the snow field. There were a few lines I could ski, but it was limited within the boundaries. There were 40 lanes reserved on the hill. The snow below Palmer towards was the Magic soft mile, in term of snow and slope. As noon approached, lineups to the lifts disappeared as coaches were unsetting the courses and racers made their last free runs before non-skiing afternoon activities.
Snowpark served by rope-tows below the midstation on Palmer was still pretty busy. Chatted again with the local coaches as they were packing up for their first day. I was also needed to get ready to leave, I was picking up Tony at the Portland Airport at 3pm. In 3 hours of skiing, I managed 7 runs. The morning started off bluebird with a hanging cloud on the summit of Mt. Hood, however it started to get overcast on my last runs. Weather was moving in for the weekend, forecast called for rain.
So to Portland and back pass Mt. Hood on our 3-hour drive to Central Oregon and the town of Bend. Tomorrow is Friday June 29 and Mt. Bachelor is reopening one last weekend. The plan is to come back to Mt. Hood and Timberland Lodge on our last evening in the PNW on the following Monday.